How Trump's botched Oval Office speech triggered all hell to break loose

How Trump's botched Oval Office speech triggered all hell to break loose
President Donald J. Trump addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House Wednesday evening, March 11, 2020, on the country’s expanded response against the global Coronavirus outbreak. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

President Donald Trump's announcement Wednesday night that the U.S. would in response to the coronavirus outbreak ban flights into the country for 30 days from most European nations starting Friday was made without consulting world leaders and triggered another global stock market meltdown Thursday morning.


European leaders condemned the move, calling the approach from the president one that would not help the world address the pandemic.

"The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," European Union Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement Thursday.

The United Kingdom, Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania are all reportedly exempt from the order as it only applies to the "Shengen Zone," where Europeans can move freely between member states.

As Mother Jones reported, Michel and von der Leyen's response was a strong and unambiguous statement on the crisis:

The scathing condemnation made clear that Trump's move—which limits travel from 26 European countries but does not include the United Kingdom, Ireland, or other countries that are not part of the continent's visa-free travel zone—had largely blindsided European countries, sending stock markets across the region into yet another free-fall. Meanwhile, in the United States, lawmakers, experts, and local communities are scrambling for answers on crucial issues Trump failed to address in his televised remarks on Wednesday: the continued lack of rapid testing and a coherent messaging on what social distancing policies to follow.

Trump's decision had Americans abroad scrambling to get home before the lockdown and sent markets around the world tumbling.

New York Times reporter Mike McIntire, in a Twitter thread, described how panic over flights back to the U.S.—exacerbated by unclear rules on whether or not Americans could return after the lockdown—led to overpaying for flights and a logjam at France's Paris-Charles De Gaulle airport.

Stocks plummeted Thursday, with the U.S. market shutting down temporarily from the so-called "circuit breaker" which suspends trading if the market falls far enough. In Europe, markets cratered on the president's announcement of the travel ban, which he initially said would also apply to trade and cargo as well before the White House walked that portion of the statement back.

Gérard Araud, former French ambassador to Washington, tweeted that Trump's comments made sense for the U.S. president— even if they were destructive for the rest of the world.

"Trump needed a narrative to exonerate his administration from any responsibility in the crisis," said Araud. "The foreigner is always a good scapegoat."

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